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This past week the Springbok players who have been made available to the media have spoken about the need to regain momentum in Saturday’s second World Cup match against Namibia in Toyota. Clearly this is the key message being drummed into them at their team meetings. The loss against New Zealand was a blow for Rassie Erasmus’s plans and a number of players such as Willie le Roux, Handré Pollard and Faf de Klerk performed well below par. But it is clear much hard work has been accomplished on the training field at Ichinomiya outside Nagoya where the team is based. Herschel Jantjies gave an indication of the homework the players are made to do, with information being delivered on their laptops for them to study in the comfort of their hotel rooms. Jantjies, who makes his first start in a World Cup match having made his debut off the bench last Saturday in Yokohama, shares a room with his half-back teammate and namesake Elton Jantjies (no relation). He says they push their beds together, prop the laptop between them and do their homework. He says the two have worked out a rapport quite quickly despite having only played together in one previous Test. On that occasion Jantjies the scrummie was making a dream Test debut against Australia at Ellis Park in July scoring two tries. Jantjies the flyhalf kicked five conversions that day but has only played one Test since then as Pollard remains Rassie’s preferred number 10. The Boks are captained by Schalk Brits for only the second time. Unusually for the hooker, he runs out at eighth man. The South Africans will want to secure a comfortable win with a bonus point and pick up no injuries from Saturday’s match. – David O’Sullivan
Schalk Brits believes the best is yet to come from an evolving Springbok team, which he leads into action against Namibia in a second round Rugby World Cup pool clash at the City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
Brits runs out at the head of a much-changed line up – 13 changes in the starting XV – but the intent and strategy will continue the process of development that he has seen since being lured out of retirement just over a year ago.
“When Rassie (Erasmus) spoke to me I was sipping cocktails in Ibiza,” said Brits.
“There was never any talk of captaincy – it was just an opportunity to be part of a group of players for which Rassie had a vision.
“It has been exciting to be part of this group. Most of the players I played with and against are now retired or commentating and for me it was a move to see how I can fit in with this younger generation of players.
“From my perspective, it’s unbelievable to see a group of players coming through and where we were 18 months ago and where are now – it’s an upward path. I still believe we can do wonders in this World Cup. We are a group that’s learning and learning quickly.”
Brits (1.82m) will wear the No 8 jersey in the African Derby and in an untried loose forward combination with Kwagga Smith (1.80m) and Francois Louw (1.92m).
“I played eight for the Stormers quite a bit before I moved to Saracens,” said Brits.
“I would start at hooker and then move to No 8 during the second half when the game began to open up, so from that perspective I haven’t played eighth man for a while.
“But I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to playing with Kwagga and Francois in the loose trio – it’s probably the shortest loose trio in world rugby but we’re looking forward to it!”
Their focus and that of the team will be on putting in place the evolving gameplan – not chopping and changing for different opponents, Brits said.
“Essentially for us it is about putting processes in place. We had a couple of learnings from our game against New Zealand and we want to change a couple of things and we’ll be focusing on that,” he said.
“The focus this week was predominantly on us – we didn’t know what team they were going to pick – and hopefully we’ve learnt our lesson against New Zealand and hopefully the boys that are getting an opportunity this weekend are looking forward to the game.”
It will be only the 14th cap for the 38-year-old in a Test career spread over 12 seasons, and much of it spend in the shadow of legendary hookers John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis.
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